Structural integrity plays a critical role in development of infrastructural construction and support facilities. During the lifespan of most large-scale equipment, condition monitoring and periodic inspection is indispensable for ensuring structural health and evaluation of service condition. Wind turbine blades are the most important component of wind turbines and demands regular inspection to detect defects, which often occur underneath a blade surface. Current methods used to inspect wind
turbine blades include to send NDT operators to climb the tower for on-site inspection of the blades’ surface or to dismantle the blades for inspection on the ground. These approaches are time-consuming, costly and pose risks of injury to human inspectors. Thus, it is necessary to develop a technological
method for wind turbine blade on-site inspection of wind turbine blades.
Digital shearography based on laser interferometry has demonstrated its prominent capability for inspecting composite material which is the main material used in the construction of wind turbine blades. Shearography is a ramification of holography interferometry and is more efficient to be used as a non-destructive testing (NDT) technique owing to its improved robustness and sensitivity to surface displacement. Robotic climbers, on the other hand, have recently drawn significant interest in NDT applications to replace human inspectors in extreme conditions. Thus, this thesis presents investigations into the development of a robotic NDT method using digital shearography for on-site inspection of wind turbine blades.
The development of the shearography unit with correlation fringe pattern acquisition and the integration of this unit with the robotic climber adhering to wind turbine blades using vacuum generators are described in this thesis. The successful conduction of the indoor and outdoor trails for the integrated
system verifies that shearography holds the ability to be used as an NDT tool for on-site wind turbine blade inspection, and that the climbing robot is able to access most areas of a wind turbine blade and stabilise itself to remove the impact on the shearography of the high frequencies from the climber’s vacuum motor and the low frequencies from the blade swing.
Temporal phase shift shearography, and the fast phase map acquisition methods with less steps are evaluated in the thesis. Experiments are performed in lab with phase maps obtained using different algorithms. Apart from the conventional 4 steps and 3 steps phase shift algorithms, the modified 4+1 and 3+1 temporal phase shifting algorithms are developed for more suitability of semi-dynamic inspection by firstly calculating the correlation fringes and followed by the phase map calculations. The results of these modified methods are compared with the conventional 4 steps and 3 steps methods and are shown with equal qualities. Moreover, the reduced steps of phase shifting, i.e., 2+1 phase shifting methods are conducted for semi-dynamic phase map acquisition. It is found that the temporal phase shifting methods are not suitable for dynamic wind turbine blade inspection, however, the fast semi-dynamic temporal phase shift algorithms are able to produce phase maps with lower clarity.
Pixelated spatial phase shift shearography is developed to remedy the limitation of temporal phase shift techniques. It adopts a micro-polarization sensor in the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) camera, two linear polarizers, and a quarter waveplate as a new arrangement of optical path to
replace the piezoelectric transducer stepper as the phase stepper. Three algorithms are introduced based on this novel developed system. Additionally, the site of view is enlarged for upgrading of the system.
The development of the pixelated spatial phase shift shearography has mitigated the static processing limitation on temporal phase shift shearography, which caters for the demands of on-site NDT operation. At the same time, it remedies the current real-time shearography system which is not able to produce phase distributions for further quantitative analysis. The new developed pixelated spatial phase shift shearography system is thus more suitable for WTB on board inspection than both conventional and less-steps temporal phase shift shearography system. The field of view enlargement optimisation in the new developed spatial phase shift system indirectly reduces the distance for the inspection process and meanwhile enlarges the site of view, which consequently reduces the weight and structural complexity of the robotic-shearography integration system.
The research addresses and resolves the difficulty of on-board wind turbine blade inspection with a novel robotic NDT approach using digital shearography. The approach is significant for real world industrial applications. Moreover, through the temporal and spatial phase shift evaluation, the research proves the feasibility of dynamically obtaining phase maps by the shearography system for further quantitative analysis without using temporal phase shift devices.